NEW YORK — As sports fans will tell you, being a #1 draft pick doesn't ensure future greatness. And while the sports world's guaranteed contracts allow mediocrity without punishment, failing to live up to your hype in the rap game is borderline treason.
Now, after almost three years of riding the bench, Def Jam's latest #1 pick is finally getting a chance to prove himself. The label is listening to the streets and to the radio programmers who have been showing love to Joe Budden's "Pump It Up," and they've scheduled his self-titled debut for a June 10 release.
" 'Pump It Up' grew beyond my imagination," Joe said Wednesday. "A lot of people know me for the mixtapes, but for the masses ... all it takes it that one record. When 'Pump It Up' grew as fast as it did and the video started getting the love it received, it was time [to release the album]."
A self-professed "leaker" (Joe likes to use the streets as a testing ground), Budden already has his second single, "Fire," bubbling on some New York radio stations. Featuring vocals by Busta Rhymes and production by "Pump It Up" beatmaker Just Blaze, "Fire" sees Joe flowing over a computerized house beat about his never-ending supply of female friends and what he does in the club.
"I came with a ton of money, don't get it twisted, the gun is on me," he says. "This chick with her man, frontin' on me, I'll holla at her when she's done with homey."
People who frequent clubs will recognize Busta's lyrics on the chorus — "There's some ho's in this house" — as being from the club staple "Whores in This House" by Frank Ski.
The slick pimp talk carries over to "My, My, My," on which Joe and collaborators 112 start off trying to run game on a few hot girls but wind up having the tables turned on them, becoming smitten with the ladies to the point where they want to start a relationship.
Jump Off, as Joe calls himself, isn't so lucky in love on "She Wanna Know."
"That's actually kind of a true story," Budden explained. "All throughout the album is me talking about experiences I've been through. That's about a relationship I was in with this particular female. She was pretty jealous and she was pretty insecure and she had self-esteem issues. That doesn't make for a good relationship; well it didn't in that particular case. But she was the one. She just didn't seem to believe that. That song is dedicated to her."
"Don't tell me we already ended/ And what the f--- I need to cheat on you for?/ I'm already winning," the Jersey City homeboy pleads on the song. "I don't lie, once or twice maybe/ But forever you my lady." Lil' Mo helps Budden out, singing the words of the female in question: "I wanna know."
On "Walk With Me," Joe wants the world to know his strife. "I need all of y'all to come and take a walk with me," the 22-year-old sings on the chorus. "I need for all of y'all to feel what I'm going through and see what I see.
"Ever since I got signed I don't know what's real anymore/ Excuse me if I'm paranoid," he continues in his first verse, where he talks about getting used to his new fame.
If Joe thinks he has people coming out of the woodwork now, just wait until his album comes out. Plans for his second video are being finalized — he hopes to shoot "Fire" with Busta within the next couple of weeks.
"I'm anxious for the people to hear the music," he said. "That's what it's all about for me."